The reality for unpaid carers is laid bare in a new report – while most of the public say they need more money

Unpaid carers represented by Jacqueline Hooton and her parents
Support us and go ad-free

The majority of people think unpaid carers need more money than they currently get. That’s the verdict of a new piece of research, which also reveals that every week people perform over 67m hours worth of support in unpaid caring roles.

Unpaid carers: supporting people in their millions

Overall, the last census said there were 5.7 million unpaid carers in the UK. However, charity Carers UK believes the figure is likely nearer 11.5 million. The government gives unpaid carers just £76.75 a week – and they’re only entitled to this if they do 35 hours a week or more.

So, TakingCare has released a report called Unpaid and Under Pressure. It looks at the state of unpaid caring in the UK – specifically relating to adult children and their older parents.

The report found that overall:

  • Women, typically daughters, aged 55-59 are most likely to care for elderly parents.
  • 1 in 3 adults would give up work to care for elderly parents.
  • The amount of Carers Allowance benefits claimed in 2022 was £3.2 million.
  • 67,300,000 hours of care are performed every week in the UK by unpaid carers.
  • Social care costs and having ‘no one else’ are the biggest reasons women make this decision.

TakingCare’s research also threw up some interesting perspectives. As it says on its website, it found that:

just 1 in 10 adults surveyed have discussed care plans with their parents and only 4% have discussed what they would want to happen in the future with their partners.

More than 50% of people aged 50+ have not discussed future care plans with their elderly relatives…

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free


Over two-thirds of over 70s have not discussed care plans with their adult children.

‘Left lying in the garden’

Jacqueline Hooton is a healthy ageing influencer. She lives in Bognor Regis, and has over 250K followers on her Instagram account @hergardengym. Hooton works full time and has two older children living at home, as well as a son at university. Like many women, she has now taken on the responsibility of supporting her elderly parents alongside her family responsibilities and work commitments.

Hooton’s recent experience highlights the situation for many older people and their children. She said in a press release:

Despite telling me not to worry, I was understandably anxious when I received this message from my mother recently. My father is eighty-five years old, and my mother is eighty. They have lived in their seaside cottage for over fifty years, and it’s where I grew up. I live a five-minute walk away from my parents, so when I received the message from my mother telling me she’d had a fall, I was able to visit her straight away. I was concerned when I saw her as her face was bloodied and bruised, and she had sustained several other cuts and bruises to her limbs. Luckily, she didn’t break anything though.

My parents are more fortunate than many older adults who live alone. On the day my mother fell she knew my father would eventually find her. However, she fell over in the garden at the back of the house, my father was in the front of the house at the time and didn’t hear her calling for help. This experience made me, and them, realise that despite my parents relatively good health, and having one another, they are still potentially vulnerable. If my father had been out swimming or playing golf when my mother fell, she could have been left lying in the garden for some considerable time.

This kind of situation is, as Hooton pointed out, a relatively fortunate one.

The rich/poor, man/woman divide

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that there is a stark rich and poor divide in England and Wales when it comes to unpaid carers:

There was a higher percentage of people providing unpaid care in the most deprived areas in England and Wales (10.1% and 11.5% respectively) compared with the least deprived areas, which had the lowest percentage of people providing unpaid care in both England and Wales (8.1% and 9.7%, respectively).

Little wonder, then, that TalkingCare found one of the top reasons people become unpaid carers is because people can’t afford care homes:

Unpaid carer survey one

So, it would seem prudent for the government to at least provide unpaid carers with a decent level of support. Of course, this is not the case with Carer’s Allowance being pitifully low. TalkingCare found that the public agree unpaid carers need more money. Its research highlighted that, in the context of how much people thought they would need a week to be an unpaid carer:

  • 80% said it would be over £100 a week.
  • 50% said over £200.

unpaid carers survey three

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it seems that patriarchal attitudes still exist around unpaid caring, too. TalkingCare’s survey found that:

Two-thirds of those surveyed believed that daughters should be the ones to care for their elderly parents rather than sons

Data backs this up, with the Local Government Association reporting that in 2021:

900,000 full-time unpaid carers nationally – most of them women – rely on Carer’s Allowance

The ONS also noted this, finding that in England 10.3% of women are unpaid carers versus 7.6% of men.

Rethinking caring

As Hooton pointed out, the precariousness of the situation for older people and their unpaid carers is very real:

Whilst I only live a short distance away, and could get to my parents quickly if required, this relies on one of my parents being able to contact me.

If someone has a fall and can’t get to a phone, they may not be able to summon help, and in some cases, people may fall and sustain a significant injury or lose consciousness.

Plus, around 120,000 children in England and Wales aged 5-17 are unpaid carers. Moreover, the Carers Trust found that 31% of unpaid carers had seen their own health and wellbeing suffer as a result of their role. As the Trades Union Congress (TUC) recently found, there are currently 152,000 vacancies in social care. This means one in 10 jobs aren’t filled. It also found 61% of social care workers earned less than the real Living Wage.

So, with little support from government, a crisis in social care, and more and more people needing support, the state continues to put unpaid carers under undue pressure. Radical change is needed to resolve this situation.

Featured image via Search etc agency

Support us and go ad-free

We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support

The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.

The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.

So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.

Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. Were you also aware that, once you are in receipt of the ‘State Pension’, you are no longer entitled to claim ‘Carer’s Allowance’! How does that make sense? Are there no 66+ year olds still identified as the ‘main carers’ for their disabled children? What would the cost be if all those aged 66+ gave up their care responsibilities and their disabled offspring were suddenly ‘dropped’ on the already breaking social care system?

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.